ROK Extending K-9 Howitzer’s Range

K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer.
K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer.

The Republic of Korea’s Agency for Defence Development (ADD) is reportedly investing around US$38 million in a development effort directed at extending the firing range of the K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer.

The program reflects a concern that the current K-9 155mm X 52 calibre cannon has become outranged by other cannon being fielded. Of particular focus are the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) 170mm Koksan and reports of 60 km range capability.

In addition, both Russia and the Peoples Republic of China have demonstrated longer range guns with the former’s 2S35 at 70 km and latter’s 53 km PL205. Another inducement to presenting a range competitive version of the K-9 is assuring its continued export success.

Over the last decade K-9 manufacturer, Hanwha Defence, has secured foreign contracts with eight militaries and is pursing addition opportunities. Enhancing its range is essential to assuring K-9s international position.

Currently, K 9’s 155mm x 52 calibre cannon has a maximum range of 40 km with conventional base bleed K307 ammunition. This can be improved with rocket assisted projectiles (K315) to 54 km. However, this initiative appears to seek a doubling of the current range to around 80 km. This compares to the US Army Expended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) M1299 development which using a longer L58 barrel and ammunition has demonstrated 69 km capability. An associated contract was awarded to American Rheinmetall Munitions to provide an Extended Range Charge for the L58.

It is intended to extend the projectile range by ten percent. Although details of the direction of the ROK extended range program have not been indicated, based on other development efforts it can be expected to include both gun and ammunition improvements. It would also not be surprising if Hanwha were to reach out to collaborate with other companies in this effort. ADD’s objective is to have this extended range K-9 by 2027.

by Stephen W. Miller